Aha! is a set of practices I’m developing to help pull-workers learn to learn. I’m investigating what it takes for a learner to become self-sufficient, to both learn and design learning experiences. I’d like to make that easier.
My bookshelves groan under more than 200 books on learning and development. (I’ve recycled many to get down to this.) They contain studies of learning from the frameworks of design, teaching, networks, tech, brain science, and positive psychology. How many books look at learning from the point of view of the learner? None that I know of. Nada. It’s time to design some self-help.
As corporations flatten and digitize, millions of people are being handed responsibility for their own learning, by plan or by default. Corporations that decentralize often leave people to sink or swim. Learning — that ultimate competitive advantage in a fast-changing world — is too important to leave to chance any longer. Besides, learning can be a fulfilling, nourishing aspect of work; folks need to know how to make the best of it.
As business grows ever more complex, fast, and confusing, the quality of learning must increase. Learning professionals know a lot about ideal conditions for learning and what blend of things works when. Rarely have they shared this wisdom with the greater enterprise community. Hence, there are a number of opportuities to tweak how people learn that can have profound changes in the level of “working smarter.” It’s virgin territory. Sharing the wisdom surrounding learning with the people who need it. It can be a game changer.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just been told she’s responsible for her own learning. It’s like the dog that got on the bus: Now what do I do? I want to give her a helping hand and a few directions. (My monkey mind just whispered in my ear: Make it a comic book. Who knows.) I want this person to leverage networks, learn with the work team, and have a personal strategy for acquiring, interpreting, acting on, and storing knowledge.
People are becoming forced to act as their own instructional designers, plotting the best personal knowledge strategies and routines. This requires some of adult learning theory’s secret sauce, which we propose to boil down and include in our kit.
In 1978, I remember seeing my first copy of Training magazine and soon thereafter turning on to the work of instructional pioneers like Robert Mager, Gloria Gery, Malcolm Knowles, Joe Harless, and Ron Zemke. It was all new to me. I wasn’t aware there was an entire training industry. We didn’t deal with this when I went to Business School. Instructional design? Never heard of it. Nor have most business executives, and that’s an obstacle. They don’t yet understand the enormous impact of amping up learning in the workplace.
Before I saw that Training magazine, I’d been designing a large instructional system in the dark: I hadn’t been aware of the vast amount of evidence on learning the instructional design community had assembled. (I was a former computer salesman and Army officer.) I led a team that created 120 hours of interactive exercises to teach business and management skills. Design was 100% gut feel and watching what worked. Out of ignorance, I made a number of things less fun and more arduous than need be. That was a 1.0 curriculum, the adult students loved it, but I still feel negligent just knowing how much more it could have meant to them. A thousand people in the Bay Area took that course in the first 18 months; I’m sorry we could not have helped them learn more. Were I to do something like this again, I’d be able to take an enlightened approach. I want to share that how-to with workers everywhere.
The obscurity of Instructional Design outside of the L&D community compels me to provide a brief orientation to ID and a minimalist take on how to use it as part of building learn-to-learn skills.
I plan to write an eBook on learning for learners. Later this may morph into a playlist of experiential exercises; that generally works a lot better than books. But I have to start by pinning down the subject matter and examples.
This will be a Lean Start-Up. I plan to hammer out version 1.0 of the book mercilessly and a little Gonzo. I’ll price it cheap. If learners, not training departments, buy it, I’ll add research, collect the best examples, take polls, spiff it up, and continuously refresh the book.
What’s with the Aha!? I needed a short name for this project. Aha! is the sound of enlightenment. It’s what I hope to hear from the people who learn to learn.
I am open to collaboration on this project. If you’ve got something that works or suggestions, let’s talk.
Who’s the best at helping their people learn?
Do you know of anybody who has tackled preparing independent learners to master complex subjects?
I’ve opened a community on Google+ for articles and discussion. In the spirit of Working Smarter, I intend to work out loud on Aha! Please join in the shouting.